Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the subcommittee on the federal workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, noted that Postmaster General Jack Potter, who wasn’t at the hearing, likes to point out that the agency has more retail outlets than McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined.
One approach you could take to the Postal Service’s problems, of course, would be to privatize it. Repeal their legislative monopoly on delivery of “ordinary” mail, repeal their legislative universal service obligation, and sell the thing to private investors. As run by the government, the USPS loses money, but I bet it would have significant value on the market. And the USPS’ massive real estate portfolio would be one of the key reasons. The politics of the situation make it basically impossible to manage these holdings in an economically rational way — nobody wants to see their local post office closed or relocated to someplace less convenient even if that’s what makes the most sense to do. And you see something similar with the controversy over halting Saturday delivery. Right now congress wants to make the USPS financially self-supporting, but doesn’t want to let USPS be managed the way an entity that’s actually financially self-supporting would be managed. Which is fine if you think that daily delivery of paper mail is a critical public service — critical public services shouldn’t be managed as profit-maximizing entities — but in 2009 does the delivery of paper mail really count as a critical public service?